San Antonio Spurs vs. Los Angeles Lakers Preview and Pick – Game 5 – 2008 Western Conference Finals

San Antonio Spurs (65-33), +8, o/u 193.5 vs. Los Angeles Lakers (68-28), -8, o/u 193.5, Staples Center, Los Angeles, California, 9 p.m. Eastern, Thursday
By Oracle of

What’s a Lakers/Spurs NBA playoff series without a little controversy?

In a more than pivotal Game 4 played in San Antonio on Tuesday, it came down to a last second Brent Barry heave, as he apparently got bumped by Lakers guard Derek Fisher in his game-winning attempt. Well, not apparently got bumped. He did.

However, the referees swallowed their whistles late in this contest, and Barry’s shot hit all backboard.

And wouldn’t you know that none other than Joey Crawford headed this referee crew at the AT&T Center. Yep, the same Joey Crawford that was suspended last season for his actions and comments toward Tim Duncan and these same Spurs.

It would seem as though Commissioner David Stern likes to be involved in controversies, because he’s got one on his hands.

Game 4 went to the Lakers, 93-91, and with it, they hold a 3-1 advantage heading into Game 5 tonight at the Staples Center at 9 p.m. Eastern.

Los Angeles has a chance to close out the defending champs at home, as they’re a big favorite -8 against the Spurs. The over/under opened up at 193.5 as well.

Each team has covered twice in the series, including once on each other’s home court.

What made Tuesday’ win in Game 4 even more eye opening was the fact that Kobe Bryant didn’t go to the free throw line one time. He still managed to score 29 points, however he’s only been to the free throw line six times in the entire series. Pretty amazing considering he went to the charity stripe 23 times in Game 1 against Utah last series.

Once again though, it’s the defense of pesky Bruce Bowen that has “contained” Bryant.

The Spurs showed their age on Tuesday, as the Lakers outscored them 26-4 on second chance points and out rebounded them by nine.

Duncan did all he could to keep his team in the game, scoring 29 points and grabbing 17 boards. Brent Barry also stepped up huge, scoring a playoff career-high 23 points off the bench.

It was the struggles of Manu Ginobli once again that left Spurs fans shaking their heads. Ginobli shot just 2-of-8 from the floor and scored seven points. Ginobli had a 30-point outburst in his team’s dominating Game 3 win, but has averaged just eight points in the other three match ups.

Bryant and the Lakers have a chance to erase some bad memories the past few seasons after not making it out of the first round. The Staples Center would be a safe bet for them to do it at, too, since they are 7-0 there this postseason.

The trends aren’t aplenty for bettors between these two squads. The on-and-off play has slowed many of the trends, however a 10-2-1 record ATS for the Lakers comes after a straight up win the previous game.

The Spurs counter that by going 5-1-1 ATS in their last seven games after failing to cover the previous game.

If bettors wanted to stay away from the line, the over/under looks to be a safe play. The under has been a huge trend for both teams, as it has come in during the first four games of the series.

The 193.5 over/under for Game 5 is right around the set totals for the first four games, but the two teams haven’t combined for more than 187 points the entire series.

The under is 7-0 for the Spurs in their last seven overall, while it’s 8-2 for the Lakers following a straight up win.

It’s also 4-1 in the last five meetings dating back to the regular season when these two teams match up at the Staples Center.

Bryant has the chance to step out of the lingering shadows of Shaquille O’Neal for the Lakers. But he has to go through the defending champs first.

Oracle’s Pick: We hate to side with the public, but it’s hard to see the defending champions not cover this spread in an elimination game. Take the Spurs plus the points!